Insider: Strange Times and Spoilers

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It’s a weird time to be an MTG financier. Last week I wrote an article about how Avacyn Restored cards are good long-term targets, and within a couple days Craterhoof Behemoth and Disciple of Griselbrand shot up by about 50 and 20 percent, respectively. As someone not professionally involved in MTG finance, I wrote last week’s article because I wanted to call cards you should be looking to acquire gradually over the next six to twelve months. I don’t personally have a ton of time to trade, list items for sale online, or go to the post office, so I like to pick up the slow-but-steady growers that aren’t going to gain or lose me a ton of profit based on the amount of time I have to devote to MTG during a given week.

That being the case, it was both gratifying and annoying to see Craterhoof and Disciple of Griselbrand spike further. They had both, of course, been on an upward trajectory leading up to my article, but I thought they had plateaued as of last week’s submission. I was wrong, and acquired exactly zero of either card before the increase. There’s still time to acquire cards like Restoration Angel and Cavern of Souls, among others, but I am starting to wonder if my six-to-twelve-month estimate is high. All the good Modern picks in the last few months have just been spiking irrespective of the PTQ format being Standard. Meanwhile, Standard is boring and hasn’t offered up nearly as much opportunity to make money. What is going on?

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

For me, this scenario keeps repeating itself: I see the appeal in a Modern card, maybe read some discussion regarding it on the QS forums or on Twitter, and come to the conclusion that it’s a good spec. I think to myself, “I’m going to pick up some extra copies of this at my next FNM,” but then by the time Friday rolls around, the card has doubled. Standard cards, on the other hand, have stayed basically stagnant, despite the PTQ season that is currently ongoing. Return to Ravnica cards spiked when Theros was released, and Theros cards are flooding the market right now, keeping prices depressed.

How awkward is it that the Standard PTQ season ends on March 9 but Born of the Gods isn’t being released until February 7? Having had no good opportunity to get out, I am still very deep in shock lands and have been holding out hope that the new set would drive up their prices enough to be profitable. But with only five short weeks between the new set’s release and the end of the PTQ season, there may not be enough time for new decks to receive the appropriate hype to cause price spikes.

After that, we’re looking at another Sealed PTQ season, followed by Modern. This is a new schedule, and while nobody can know for sure, I’m strongly anticipating that the typical Standard drop-off is going to occur much sooner than usual. PTQ grinders will have no reason to hold onto Standard cards after the season ends, so expect some big dips in March and April. I’ll be working toward being out of my Standard wares by that time, and I suggest you do the same.

Only Three Scry Lands

I feel a bit Vindicated today, as this article on Daily MTG seems to indicate that we’re getting only three of the remaining five scry lands in Born of the Gods. I have been arguing this case for months, ever since Sam Stoddard revealed the lands for Theros in this article and said, “This left us with five more for the rest of the block. What will the order be for their release? You'll have to wait and see.” Despite him all but telling us they would be split up, the overwhelming majority online and at my LGS seemed to believe all five remaining lands were coming in the next set.

What does this mean financially? Since we’re getting scry lands for the Selesnya, Azorius, and Rakdos color pairs, this means Golgari and Izzet are being left for Journey into Nyx. This could have one of two effects on Steam Vents and Overgrown Tomb. On one hand, if two-color decks become all the rage, then there will probably be very little demand for these two shock lands, leading to further stagnation or maybe even decline. On the other hand, if three-color decks start seeing more play, these lands will be crucial in those strategies. For example, if a Jund deck takes over the format, Overgrown Tomb will be the only GB land available for it (besides Golgari Guildgate). I’ll be keeping a close eye on the meta before determining how to proceed.

Getting the GW scry land could mean a big boost for GW aggro strategies, which have already been seeing some play with gates. Being from Dragon’s Maze, I think Advent of the Wurm and Scion of Vitu-Ghazi have the most room to grow in this deck. As a rare from a large fall set, I don’t want to mess with Fleecemane Lion at $3—maybe if it was a bulk rare. The other lands open up doors as well, but to me, the GW scry land is the most important of the three being added to the format—at least given the decks that are currently seeing play. Maybe the extra consistency for UW control will make it a much bigger player.

Don’t Spec on Magical Christmas Land

With the first wave of spoilers, we were also introduced to the inspire mechanic. This is a triggered ability that happens whenever the inspired permanent untaps. However, in order for the ability to trigger, one has to figure out how to first get the creature tapped.

When new sets come out, brewers, wide-eyed innocents, and speculators like to think about what kind of crazy things could happen due to synergy. In this case, my first thought went to Ral Zarek. “Man, that crappy plus-one might not be so bad with this!” I thought. But then I considered that we’re not getting the Izzet scry land, nor has any UR deck been particularly good in this meta, nor has Ral Zarek seen any play since bursting onto the scene.

Then; I looked up the price, because even with all those factors going against the card, I still thought it might be worth picking up a few copies if it was at $3-4, generally the low for a planeswalker. But no, Ral Zarek is a $9 card. I would say it’s inexplicable, but being from Dragon’s Maze has its baggage. Sure, if the card does take off, it could get to astronomical levels, but is it really worth the risk of buying in at nearly $10 a pop?

What I’m trying to say is be careful this spoiler season. Don’t drink and buy. Don’t live in Magical Christmas Land. Don’t think a tier-three strategy is the next coming of Caw Blade. New cards are exciting, there’s no denying, but keep a level head and don’t do anything you’ll regret later. Make money, but play it safe—buy in on cards that are low, not cards that are hyped. Don’t be the greater fool.

I close today with a question: what are you going to do with your copies of Birthing Pod? I’ve been on this card since my earliest articles here at Quiet Speculation, and am happy to see that it’s finally spiked. But I think it could go a few dollars higher in Modern season, or even before. When a long-term spec hits, sometimes it can be hard to know the exact time to get out. So what’s your strategy been so far? Please share in the comments. See you next time!

3 thoughts on “Insider: Strange Times and Spoilers

  1. Something to consider: Birthing Pod will be legal in Modern forever, and they’re not going to stop printing interesting creatures, and Modern is going to be growing for the foreseeable future. Barring a reprint, there may not ever be a “right” time to get out of it, much as there was never a “right” time to get out certain Legacy staples.

    1. I would specify that there may be no “right” time to get out of a staple like Birthing Pod in the long term. But in the short term, with all these crazy spikes left and right there are definitely better times to sell even if the overall price trajectory in the long term is upward.

      Also I pretty much operate under the assumption that every Modern card is vulnerable to a reprint so that I don’t get too comfortable with any one investment. With Legacy you can buy some Dual Lands and sit on them for a while knowing you’re largely safe. Not so for cards that Wizards wants to reprint.

    2. Not that they’re experts, but loads of people at my LGS have been convinced for a while now that I’m an idiot for buying into Birthing Pod. They’re all positive it will be banned. I don’t really agree (obviously) but their logic is that it is one of the only decks that has to repeatedly shuffle multiple times per turn, and that Wizards doesn’t want to keep around cards that will do that.

      Personally I’m expecting at least another 2 dollars before I get out. I expect we will see at least that much during Modern Season.

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